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Film on Conflict Diamonds

There is a new film soon to be released on conflict diamonds.

As the saying goes, “even bad news is good news”. I suspect that
attention towards any kind of jewelry will make a big jump.

DiCaprio movie takes the shine off diamonds
John Harlow, Los Angeles

DIAMONDS may not be for ever. Gem merchants are concerned that a
new Hollywood film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and exposing the
violent underworld of “conflict diamonds” may dim their
glittering reputation. The Oscar-nominated actor has signed up to
make The Blood Diamond, in which he will portray a smuggler
embroiled in the civil war in Sierra Leone, wher= e guerrillas
systematically mutilate miners to enforce their grip on the west
African nation’s export trade.

DiCaprio took the role after speaking to experts from Survival
International, the London-based human rights organisation whose
lobbying also influenced the rapper Kanye West to compose his
recent hit single Diamonds from Sierra Leone.

De Beers, which has dominated the trade in diamonds since 1930,
has expressed misgivings about the film, which will start
shooting next spring.

At a mining conference in Cape Town, Jonathan Oppenheimer, head
of the company’s South African operations, warned that the movie
could undermine efforts to maintain the image of its diamonds as
"untarnished and ethical".

Oppenheimer said that a recent global trade agreement called the
Kimberley Process, which seeks to authenticate the origins of the
=A3500m of new stones sold each year, had curbed the number of
conflict diamonds, but warned that the film could undo much of
its positive effect.

“Can you imagine this film’s impact on the audience in America
if the message is not carried through that this is something of
the past,” said Oppenheimer, whose family commissioned the
marketing slogan “diamonds are for ever” in 1947.

While De Beers insists that “conflict diamonds” account for
fewer than 4% of the world’s new gems, lobbyists say that the
true figure is closer to one in four. “Anything that shines a
light on the atrocities carried out for such diamonds is to be
welcomed,” Amnesty International, the human rights group, said
last last week.

Hollywood and diamonds have been linked since Marilyn Monroe
claimed in the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes that they were
a girl’s best friend. Elizabeth Taylor set the trend towards ever
bigger stones when she married Richard Burton for the first time
11 years later.

Recent films have focused a colder eye on the business behind
the symbol of love. The most recent James Bond movie, Die Another
Day, revolved around diamonds from Sierra Leone.

This week sees the British premiere of Lord of War, starring
Nicolas Cage as a Ukrainian arms dealer, which highlights
government fears about links between illicit diamonds, arms and

DiCaprio, dismissed by some in the past as a baby-faced party
animal, said recently that he wanted to use his fame for a
greater good. “In this town you can either be a vain movie star
or you can try to shed some light on different aspects of the
human condition,” he said.

Friends say that his attention was drawn to the African diamond
trade by his girlfriend Gisele Bundchen, the Brazilian
supermodel. Bundchen knows the British model Lily Cole and the
Somali-born Iman, both of whom stopped modelling for De Beers
after the company was accused of expelling Kalahari bushmen from
a mining area. De Beers says that the 2,000 bushmen moved out of
the Botswana region of their own accord.

Americans buy 55% of the world’s diamonds compared with 3% that
go to Britain. Although it remains to be seen whether the new
film will change opinion in America, there are already calls for
a stricter enforcement of the Kimberley agreement and for buyers
of diamonds to be more aware of their origins.

West annoyed fellow rappers recently when he accused them of
being childishly obsessed with “the bling”, or show-off
jewellery, a fashion that is fuelling the demand for ever-larger
diamonds which are most easily obtained from African war zones.

“Black Americans in particular should be ashamed of the bling
which comes seeped in black Africans’ blood,” the rapper said.

“They should ask more questions when they are buying their
watches and chains. Like what is the true cost of the bling?”

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